Saturday, July 19, 2008

Best the Temporary Placeholder has Become a Post

"Watch me make this pencil disappear."

Finally. A movie.

I saw the Dark Knight Friday evening and, like everyone, I was blown away. Wicked happenings of bad luck left me the only of my circle of amigos to get to see the movie Friday night and I was left buzzing with delirium, saying with a shrug of my shoulders incredible things like "all I can say was it was, dare I say, an Empire Strikes Back-level sort of movie." And what can be typed here that hasn't been typed before? All summer long I've been going to theaters and only sort of liking what I saw...with a few exceptions...but fortunately this movie was start to finish amazing, meaning that now the two movies from this summer that I can really stand behind are the Dark Knight and Speed Racer and the two movies that I can endorse with few only a reservations are Indiana Jones and Iron Man. And I give an honorable mention to Kung-Fu Panda, the movie that was awful good but I keep forgetting that I saw it and liked it.

I already feel weird for having called Batman "start to finish amazing." I feel more weird adding the billionth positive assessment of this film to the internet, especially if all I have to offer is the nodding of my head.

But let me say this:

This is a near-perfect dark little movie and it made me extremely uncomfortable at times, a few times I thought to myself "hrrm, maybe I should leave?" but it was also such a good (meaning "well made") film, of course I couldn't. It was a perfect expression of the popular sentiment that Batman must. be. dark. And that all Batman movies before this one were not dark enough and that Batman has never been dark or brooding enough and the Joker hasn't been evil enough. But all I can remember about the hype behind every Batman movie the preceded this one (with the exception of Batman & Robin, the hype to which I was not exposed as I was on my mission when it came out, but I can offer a pretty thrilling review of of that movie and maybe I'll write it up some day) is the emphasis that this movie is the darkest Batman movie yet, this one is the one that will get into the dark cobwebs of the grim psyche of the Batman. Even Batman Forever was like this! Remember? Nicole Kidman was a psychologist, she had that doll with the two sides to it? So maybe (or, DEFINITELY) the Dark Knight is the darkest, grittiest Batman movie and we can now feel a little satisfied, having had our fill of darkness, but I can't fully buy into the need for grim Batman stories. At least part of me thinks that Batman is equally about grappling hooks and a cooler Batmobile every time as it is menace and fear. I accept the Dark Knight as an extremely intense and totally excellent portrayal of Bat Man but I do not accept it as the definitive portrayal of the hero.

Batman is known for fighting the Joker, but he also fights the Penguin, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, Clayface, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, and the Mad Hatter and I ask you, How could any of those villains fit in the Batman universe of the Dark Knight? Where could this series go next? I don't know. This movie can't possibly be topped. I say Nolan should walk away from the project unless he has a secret, perfect plan to improve on this one...or, if not improve, at least follow-up on it satisfactorily. The insane box office of this movie will leave investors (did you know that Legendary Pictures, the studio that produced this movie, is essentially just a collection of Wall Street investment bank and hedge fund money?) insisting upon a sequel. But where do we go? Does the world really need the definitive dark and menacing portrayal of the Penguin (especially after Tim Burton and Danny Devito did so well 17 years ago?) I think Clayface would be a cool experiment, but does the world Gotham by Nolan (I liked how the Gotham of the Dark Knight was essentially just Chicago, having ditched all the fanciful elements of all the Gothams that came before it, including the Gotham of Batman Begins) have any room for such a fantastic character. Are super powers even allowed in the world of the Dark Knight. This is a movie with characters from comicbooks, but it is not a comic book movie.

And of course I must mention that the Joker was amazing in this movie and that, as intended, every time he appeared on screen I couldn't help but be afraid of what was about to happen. It's a popular filmmaking trick that when you introduce the villain you have to establish that he's totally evil, and usually this is done by having him kill one of his own henchmen in cold blood...problem is, after this sort of introduction, the villain generally goes about his business for the rest of the movie without again approaching that level of madness or viciousness. But with the Dark Knight it is established and emphasized early on that the Joker is a seriously bad dude but he builds on this for the rest of the movie and that I appreciated.

Let's talk about the pencil for half a second. This is the one thing from the whole movie that I would not want to spoil for someone who hasn't been yet, but to those of you who have been: Wasn't that something? I think it was a turning point for the movie, the moment we were all shown that we going to get beat up a little by this movie and, most importantly and effectively, that the Joker was our villain and our problem. The sort of scene that strangers on a subway train can talk about after the show.

Another thing, I think it's well worth noting that this movie featured a trip to Hong Kong in it. Hong Kong! Is this the first DC movie to have acknowledged an actual real life real city outside of Gotham? If you can go from Gotham to Hong Kong, then you can also probably go from Gotham to Cleveland or Downey, Idaho.

And I am so grateful that this movie had a (to leave it strongly understated) satisfactory third act. Pretty much every single movie I've seen this summer (except for Speed Racer) disappointed me with its third act, (and in the case of Wall-E, I was disappointed with the third AND second acts.)

So those are the things I'm going to say about the Dark Knight. That and don't take your kids to see it.


Anonymous said...

Great movie. Heath's performance as the Joker was amazing. I have a question for you, during the previews there was one for the Watchmen have you read the graphic novels? Is it worhwhile checking out? Love the quote.-Matthew Gold Allen

Gregory Barnes said...

To Matthew Gold Allen:
Watchmen was an awful (a little harsh there; it was decent) "graphic novel". I have no clue how they could ever make a good movie with a comic that relies so much on character development with the expense of plot and action. The movie will be boring. Although, the trailer looked cool style wise.

Tayebi Sisters said...

i can't get over this movie. heath is a god.

Ali said...


The Shark said...

Penguin was reduced to lameness in "Batman Returns" -- campy and ridiculous. If they'd stayed a tad more true to his comic origins, he wouldn't have come across as so silly. Sorry, but as much as I liked Danny Devito being cast, I can't support Burton's treatment of the character.

And no, Nolan's Gotham wouldn't allow for a character like Clayface, unless they severely changed the nature of his "powers" so that they weren't really powers but rather a talent. For example, making him a master of disguise who doesn't have a real identity (that we know of), who can quickly and accurately change his face to look like anyone he wants. Actual shape shifting would be unacceptable.

I think Scarface (the Batman villain, not the Al Pacino character) would be a villain who would fit in well with Nolan's established universe of Gotham -- deeply psychotic issues, deeply-rooted in the mafia.

Heather-Rita said...

I can't wait to see this....thanks for the review... has been too long since I've stopped-in to say ya!

Ashley said...

Great review, Brigham. I totally agree, this film's third act was extremely powerful. The boat scene was thought provoking, to say the least. And the pencil scene- that totally set the tone. The examination of the difference between good and evil was intense. It was an incredibly well done film.

Anonymous said...

Good review, I totally agree. As for the next villain? I like the idea of Harley Quinn - there's some dark emotional/psychological themes to explore there - and maybe the return of Two-Face. I'm not sure how they would do it but I bet they could, and it'd be great.

movie junkie said...

dark knight is truly a masterpiece... if nothing else because of ledger's performance